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The State of the Art Paperback – May 27 1993

4.5 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Orbit (May 27 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1857230302
  • ISBN-13: 978-1857230307
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 1.5 x 19.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 222 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #105,273 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Accompanied by a lengthy essay, "A Few Notes on the Culture" (1997), these seven arresting short stories and the disturbing novella that provides the title for Banks's latest SF collection all date from 1984–1987, the period of his bizarre mainstream novel The Wasp Factory and the extravagant genre novel Consider Phlebas, both cult-inspiring works. In short pieces like "Road of Skulls" and "Piece," Banks turns convention upside down and inside out, with shocker-endings that linger like smoke rising from a crematorium. "Odd Attachment" traces a marooned spaceman and his AI suit on a tortuous survival trek across an uninhabited planet, illustrating Banks's preoccupation with the "self-generative belief system" that applies to both humans and AIs in the Culture, the setting for the title story and some of his SF novels. Viewing Earth and Homo sapiens through the eyes of the Culture, a galactic group-civilization spawned by a handful of humanoid species several thousand years in the past, allows Banks to speculate on his dearest philosophical topics: the preferability of anarchy in space, denunciation of market economies as "synthetic evil," never-ending education for both humans and machines, and genetic manipulation. For all their wrenching images and sadistic twists, Banks's unsettling tales bestow a grim gift, the ability to see ourselves as others might see us.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


'Banks is a phenomenon: the wildly successful, fearlessly creative author of brilliant and disturbing non-genre novels, he's equally at home writing pure science fiction of a peculiarly gnarly energy and elegance' William Gibson 'Few of us have been exposed to a talent so manifest and of such extraordinary breadth' The New York Review of Science Fiction 'Unfailing inventiveness and wit' Guardian

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First Sentence
The ride's a little bumpy on the famous Road of Skulls... "My God, what's happening!" Sammil Mc9 cried, waking up. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
If you're not already a Banks fan, this book won't make you one (that would be "The Player of Games", "Canal Dreams", "The Brige", or "Use of Weapons," depending on your taste). But if you liked "Use of Weapons", "State of the Art" is worth it just for the title story, which has Diziet Sma aboard a GCU orbiting Earth in the 1970s. The intervene
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Format: Paperback
There are a few versions of this floating around. The one pictured on top of this page is the one I'll be talking about and is a collection of short fiction. There's at least one other published earlier that only contains the title story. "The State of the Art" is probably what this book is best known for, it's over a hundred pages long and thus dominates by far all of the other stories in the volume. It's also by far the best, probably because the length allows Banks to really run with his ideas and themes. Basically his ultra-advanced Culture runs into Earth circa 1977 and decides to hang around and observe for a bit. This allows Banks to indulge in quite a bit of social commentary in the form of "aliens telling us what we do wrong" but he keeps it balanced,... some of the Culture think Earth is a great place and there are more than a few arguments that the Culture itself is stifling and stagnant (not that these are new arguments to anyone who has read the other Culture novels), all in all it feels like a complete novel as opposed to a novella, and just about everything works. The book is worth it just for that story. Fortunately the others are all pretty decent, most are pretty short and thus don't have as much impact either because they're just downright weird (the one with the sentinent tree or whatever was just odd) or experimental (the last story especially, I suspect I missed a wagon-load of comments on British society) but most of the others, such as the other Culture story or the guy stuck in the astronaut suit work just right and show the depth and extent of Banks' vision. He's not concerned with working in just SF or just genre fiction or "just" anything, his stories run the gamut and are unmistakeably his, in whatever genre or strange mix thereof. These new to Banks would be wise to sample this and see what he's capable of before moving onto the (hard as it is to believe) vastly better novels. I wish I could say he's underrated, but it wouldn't be true.
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Format: Hardcover
ok, so this book was one of the first i read after the bridge, inversions and feersum endjinn. I naturally prefer iain m banks' SF novels as they are so detailed and although this is a short story it has a very big emotional impact(or it did for me personally). It is (in brief) about aliens (the culture) deciding whether to land on earth and what effect it may have if it chooses to. Its main focus is how the mentally inferior human race would handle it if aliens did settle on the planet. I found it quite upsetting to read from a point of view which looks at earth as more of a disease than a blessing and it is disturbing to reaslise how detructive people can be. It brings all this to light and as you progress through the story you realise that the aliens perception of humans being blind to change and thinking they are the only race out there is accurate, which is fairly shocking to read. This book is accurate in its description of the human species and soon the story being told becomes almost irrelevant as this novel really gets into your mind. It is short and, as they say, straight to the point. Brace yourself for some subtle but emotional reading!
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By A Customer on July 25 2000
Format: Hardcover
Road Of Skulls summary: this short story is rather boring, but it gets you "in there". The feeling of being on the move is there, and the fairly innovative scenes will catch your interest.
Road Of Skulls rating: 4 stars.
A Gift From The Culture summary: this one keeps you in on it. The characters are well-made, the situation interesting. The ending itself even leaves you satisfied. A smooth ride.
A Gift From The Culture rating: 5 stars.
Odd Attachment summary: very odd story, but it is rather amusing while it should be disgusting. Just like if you read The Wasp Factory, except on a smaller scale. Some of the uses of imagery are shocking yet also amusing. Very well thought-up and witty.
Odd Attachment rating: 5 stars.
Descendant summary: at first you may unknowingly skim through too much of the beginning. I don't think that the beginning started early enough. Excusing that, the story from there gets you into it, and deals with some controversial issues in the middle. The ending is slightly dissapointed, yet understandable.
Descendant rating: 4 stars.
Cleaning Up summary: for some reason this one reminds me of PKDs usual type of short stories. Not that captivating, with shallow characters, but very interesting and satisfying. A mixed read, and probably his worst but it's the top of the bottom.
Cleaning Up rating: 4 stars.
Piece summary: this one is short, yet it is a good representation of life then. When it is done, you'll want more as the author's use of the characters are cool enough. And not only that, but you can also see everything that's happening. Absorbing.
Piece rating: 5 stars.
The State Of The Art summary: like a really long and quite alien version of Piece.
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